When Bear and I started BRUCE BOLT, my goal was to teach him two things: first, I wanted to teach him how to start and grow a profitable company, and second, I wanted to teach him the importance of giving back.
It’s interesting to me that in today’s political climate, in certain circles, the word “profit” is usually looked down upon as a dirty word and associated with greed. In my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Profit helps companies grow through investment in R&D and product development, it gives companies the ability to hire (and pay) more employees and it gives entrepreneurs the incentive and satisfaction to take on risk. Without profit there wouldn’t be any incentive to innovate and the world would look more like Cuba than the United States.
However, profit shouldn’t be an entrepreneur's only motivation. In my opinion, companies, especially profitable companies, have an incredible “opportunity” (dare I say “obligation”) to give back. And there are a lot of ways to give back. Companies can give employees paid time off to volunteer through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, McDonald’s House, Doctors without Borders and more. Companies can donate money. Or companies can emulate one of my favorite companies, The Home Depot, who has created a massive program to help our Veterans learn a trade (BTW - The Home Depot donates over $250,000,000 every year to programs that help our veterans). But for Bear and me, I wanted to do something that could be more personal, meaningful and impact people and players in the sport Bear loves.
Throughout the process of starting BRUCE BOLT with Bear, we’ve had a lot of conversations about what we wanted BRUCE BOLT to be known for as a brand and as a company culture. For the brand it was easy, Bear’s mandate was to develop, design and manufacture the best equipment in the game. We decided that we were going to use the best materials and craftsmanship. We also decided that all of our products would have a purpose. In other words, if we make socks, they aren’t just going to be socks like every other baseball sock, they’ll be different and fix specific shortcomings of traditional socks. Our gloves last longer than any other glove, they fit better, they feel better and our Long Cuff gloves are functionally different than any other glove on the market - you get it. But what we wanted our company culture to be known for was a little bit harder to figure out.
During the months that we were discussing company culture, I happened across an article on Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS which lead me to an article about BOMBAS socks and then Warby Parker. If you don’t already know, the common theme between these companies is that for every sale of their product they donate their product to someone in need - shoes for TOMS, socks for BOMBAS and glasses for Warby Parker. It gave me an idea that I ran by Bear - what if for every pair of gloves we sold, we gave a pair of gloves to a player that lived in an “underserved” community. Bear agreed.
So, as fate would have it, not more than a day after we decided to explore the idea, I got a text from Mary Hester, an incredible young woman, who used to babysit Bear and our daughter Jolie, asking if we’d ever heard of RBI Austin (www.rbiaustin.org). Mary had no idea what Bear and I had been up to, but God works in mysterious ways. I looked up the website and it seemed like the perfect fit. RBI Austin is a non-profit affiliated with the MLB whose mission is to to “engage and develop inner-city Austin youth athletically, academically, and spiritually, empowering them to lead the transformation of their communities”.
RBI Austin runs summer leagues on the east side of Austin. They provide the fields, the equipment, the uniforms, coaches, the umps and everything else you need to play baseball. And while batting gloves aren’t necessary to actually play, Bear and I believe batting gloves are that one piece of equipment that gives a player a little bit of confidence, a little bit of swagger at the plate, a cool factor when they are sticking out of their pockets in the field - something to make these great kids feel special.
We’re working out the details, but suffice it to say we think we’ve found our opportunity to give back. Stay tuned.